September 19, 2019

Is Socialism Compromising American Economics?

Guest Opinion
By David Frederick | Aug. 10, 2019

A good first step in developing an answer to this question is to define socialism. Surprisingly, that is more difficult than would be expected. A quick internet search will display a dozen or more definitions. The problem is they conflict with each other. Wikipedia deals with this by concluding that the word socialism gets bantered around so much that it has, for all practical purposes, lost meaning.
  
The issue is further muddied by confusion pertaining to whether or not the terms “socialism” and “capitalism” have political connotations. Many people believe that they do. If that were the case, each would likely be associated with distinct methods of governance, but they are not. Both terms are more accurately considered as systems of economic organization.
 
Following is a brief description of three projects sponsored by the United States government. Over the years, each has on occasion been described as an example of how capitalism is compromised when socialistic projects are undertaken.
 
The first example takes us back to the Great Depression. In 1929 the economy of the United States experienced a catastrophic collapse. At the time, a widely held conservative belief existed that such economic variations — even extreme ones — are inevitable, naturally occurring self-correcting processes that are best left free to run their course.
 
Three years later, with no self-correcting process in sight, the government initiated efforts to stimulate the economy by implementing public works projects. The Hoover Dam, a massive concrete arch-gravity hydroelectric dam, was the largest and most complicated of those. The project was completed in five years – two years ahead of schedule — and under budget.
 
It is today owned and operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. In its 83 years of operation, it has generated more than 382 billion kilowatt hours of carbon-footprint-free electricity.
 
The second example also involved an infrastructure project. In 1956, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Federal Aid Highway Act. By 1961 this project had completed the construction of an interstate highway system in excess of 40,000 miles in length.
 
All the objectives of the project were met. National defense requirements were then and are today continuing to be fulfilled. Vast numbers of long-term employment opportunities continue to be created, and corporate American has been provided with an efficient, as well as cost-saving, transportation system.
 
The Eisenhower interstate expressway project has proven — without the slightest exaggeration — to be a culturally and economically transforming transportation system.
 
The third example pertains to Poliomyelitis. In the first half of the 20thcentury, polio — a highly contagious and disabling disease — was running rampant. In excess of a million Americans had been afflicted by the early 1950s. No prevention, cure or even effective treatment existed to combat this epidemic.    
 
In 1948 Dr. Jonas Salk, at the University of Pittsburg, was awarded a governmental grant to develop an effective polio vaccine. Five years later, in 1953, the Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center at the University of Michigan conducted a trial and analyzed the results of an experimental Salk polio vaccine. The successful result of that test was announced in 1954. By 1961, the 50,000 per year incidences of new polio cases had dropped by 96 percent.
 
These projects were good investments for the country. Lacking a generally accepted definition of socialism, determining whether or not they were socialistic is an issue that remains unanswered. The definition might not be of importance. What does matter, and is not open to question, is the certainty that each of these public-sector-based projects greatly benefited the nation and its economy.
    
The branding of programs with pejorative names works against developing fact-based outcomes. It does this by evoking partisan-based tribalism rather than fact-basedprocesses. “Socialism” is a term frequently used as negative connotation labeling of public sector projects.  
 
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a good example of how labeling can work. The ACA bill was quickly labeled as socialism and nicknamed “Obamacare” by the opposition party. That makes a certain sort of sense; socialism is cast as un-American, and President Obama’s credibility had been damaged by a slow recovery from a deep recession. The bill did eventually become law, but the labeling was brutally effective.
 
It is also interesting to consider that, although seldom if ever labeled as socialistic entitlements, the wealthiest segments of the population have access to very substantial tax-based publically funded economic benefits. Gifting the rich with unearned entitlements — at the public’s expense — could also be interpreted as socialism.
 
Let’s give a look at a recent example of gifting the rich. On December 22, 2017, the Tax Reform and Jobs Act was enacted. The law was purposefully written with massive tax cuts targeted for corporations and the wealthiest 10 percent of the population. These tax cuts will increase the national debt in excess of 1 trillion dollars. That’s a real problem and one big gift. Aren’t those the very things socialism is accused of? 
 
Politicians are gearing up to make socialism a pivotal issue in the upcoming 2020 election. Don’t drink that Kool-Aid. It is nothing more than an attempt to misdirect voters and thereby the electoral process.
 
Problems exist that are far more serious than the contrived issue of socialism. First among those is the ethical, moral, and political corruption being played out on a daily basis by those holding elected or politically appointed federal office. Correcting that issue should be our highest priority.

David Frederick, a centrist-based Independent, regards extremist political partisanship as a dangerous threat to the well-being and security of middle-class Americans. He further believes reestablishing coordinated grassroots truth-to-power messaging is a prerequisite for diminishing that threat. dcf13343@gmail.com

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